A small number of latest technologies and behavioural trends if ramped up and adopted more widely, emissions of greenhouse gas could be halved in the coming decade, researchers have found. According to them, strong civil society movements can drive such change.
Now Solar and wind power alone could halve emissions from electricity generation by 2030 as these are cheaper than fossil fuels in many regions. However, these must be scaled up rapidly for replacing coal-fired generation, according to the Exponential Roadmap report from an international group of experts.
It said, the rapid uptake of electric vehicles in some parts of the world if sustained, the vehicles could make up 90% of the market by 2030, vastly reducing emissions from transport.
By 2030, emissions could be reduced by avoiding deforestation and improving land management emissions equivalent of about 9bn tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, according to the report. However, contradictory subsidies, poor planning and vested interests could be a barrier.
The growing social movements are pressing for urgent action on climate breakdown that will be key to any transition. According to the report’s authors the behavioural change, such as avoiding overconsumption of meat and keeping governments and companies on pressure, civil movements have the power to drive the transformation needed in the next decade.
Christiana Figueres, a former top climate official at the UN, said: “I see all evidence that social and economic tipping points are aligning. We can now say the next decade has the potential to see the fastest economic transition in history.”
For the required emission cuts, the experts identified 36 developments from renewable energy to changes in food production, designing of cities, and international transport including shipping and each of these are possible to achieve by 2030.
“While the scale of transformation is unprecedented, the speed is not,” said Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “This is now a race against time, but businesses and even entire industries have made many significant transitions in less than 10 years.”
It will be possible by social movements as consumers can pressurize companies being a customer of their product, and political leaders can adopt bolder policies with public support. Countries that have taken a net-zero-carbon target for 2050 includes the UK, France, Sweden and Norway.
Owen Gaffney, a co-author of the report and the director of the strategy at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, called on digital platforms such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google to play a part.
“Given that [these platforms] are now mediating behaviour and consumption, they might do more to support societal goals, for example around advertising and the promotion of high-carbon [activities]. Governments might look here too as a place for policy innovation.”
He said, from dietary choices to making public transport highly available, more action required on the part of the governments in support of the behavioural change.
However, the national governments not yet worked out detailed policy measures required to meet the 2050 net-zero-carbon targets. The report’s authors believe that now it is possible by taking action across sectors such as energy generation, buildings, transport and food production and consumption. If the action gets delayed, it will result in higher costs and more rapid change will be necessary for the future, they say.
Gaffney pointed to a study last year by the New Climate Economy that estimated the economic benefit of a lower-carbon future at $26tn (£21tn) by 2030. As per the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, the estimated cost of reaching net-zero will be at 1-2% of GDP by 2050.
Based on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reducing maximum world’s carbon dioxide emissions output, and increasing the absorption of carbon by plantation and other means will be required to move to net-zero carbon by 2050 effectively.
The body of leading climate scientists found in its report last year that reducing carbon to near zero by mid-century was the best way to avoid dire effects if temperatures were to exceed 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
There are organizations like academic institutes, green campaigning groups and private sector companies behind the Exponential Roadmap report.